Thursday, August 19, 2010

Anthem by Ayn Rand (4 stars of 5)

I just finished Anthem by Ayn Rand.  This work by Rand is a smart and thought provoking novella.  If you are interested in exploring Ayn Rand's philosophy but feel intimidated by the massive size of The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, this may be the book for you.  I give Anthem by Ayn Rand 4 stars out of 5.

Anthem is about a future socialist, collectivist society.  This society is similar to the idea of government that the Soviet Union tried to implement during mid to late 20th century.  Equality 7-2521 is the main character of the story and the book is written through the perspective of Equality 7-2521 via his journal.  In this society, it is unknown to use the word "I".  Because all men are equal and community is the end-all, everyone refers to themselves as "we".  Equality 7-2521 is restless and starts to find the collectivist society lacking, though he cannot put words or even thoughts to his feelings.  He notices a girl (but falling in love is forbidden in this society because it is selfish).  He discovers something that may help society very much but the leaders of this society may not see things in the same way.

I find Ayn Rand's writing very appealing.  I think that she is a very good writer.  She is clear and coherent.  The book and its story is easy to read and very accessible (even though her philosophy may be a little more difficult to understand).

I find her philosophy strangely appealing and romantic in my heart but I know in my head that it is fundamentally wrong.  I think that she puts her hope too much in man and if one has total faith in man, they are bound to be disappointed.

The pacing of the story was very fast.

I may be wrong for calling this novella a story.  To me, it actually wasn't a story because it has no real resolution.  When you read it, you'll see what I mean.  It seems to me just a context set to communicate her philosophy of the virtue of selfishness and humanism.

The only negative I can think of is this.  I find her characters a little flat.  I didn't like that the Golden One blindly followed Equality 7-2521; she didn't seem to be her own person with her own desires; she seemed to be just an extension of Equality 7-2521.  And I don't like how Ayn Rand makes the heroes really strong and good looking and smart and all the bad people sniveling and weak.  (She does the same thing in The Fountainhead).

Overall, I thought the book was provacative and well worth the time to read, especially because it is so short.  I give Anthem by Ayn Rand 4 stars of 5, minus one for flatness of character and lack of resolution in the story.

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